Congrats to all the riders and thanks to everyone that helped me with this ride before, during and after. I managed to squeak out 5th place this time around. Although the rally was more straightforward this time around it meant you were going to have to grind out the miles if you wanted to score well. Since I'm more of a grinder than a thinker things worked out pretty well. Not having as many bike issues as 2007 helped too.
I managed to compile a number of people to help me prepare for the rally. The Team Strange crowd gathered over winter to go over general rally items and practice routing, planning, etc. The illustrious Marty Lier joined us to give us the super scoop on winning the IBR. Well it was good advice regardless. Rebecca Vaughn arranged to have Glenn Baldwin help me at the first checkpoint. She also checked in by phone daily to see where I was and how things were going. Tony DeLerenzo was the shipping dude for the rally. He managed to ship out about 4 packages for me during the rally and organize getting a front wheel shipped to Florida for the second checkpoint since it looked like I would wear it out before I got home due to the high mileage required for this rally. Kevin Elliott made me some custom thumbscrews so I could remove the rear fender quicker for a rear wheel change. Tim Bowman was able to help me out in Seattle by helping with a tire change and some basic intercom troubleshooting. Both Tim and his wife opened up their home to any rider who needed pre-rally assistance and I'm sure all were grateful for the help. TLC (The Lovely Cindy) was holding down home base while I was gone and checking on me to make sure things were ok which kept her stress level to a minimum as she followed the little green motorcycle icon on my SPOT satellite tracker page during the rally. Kreis Weigel was at the second checkpoint to change out the front wheel that Derek Dickson was nice enough to deliver to the hotel for me as well as some other riders. Marv and Byron were able to help me out again with a spare set of wheels for the rally which are priceless for quick wheel changes. More people checked in on me and there were visitors/supporters at many points during the rally. The amount of support I receive from people still astounds me and I'm always grateful for every helping hand and word of encouragement. Although I only mentioned some of the people please know that everyone that helped has my thanks including people who showed up at the checkpoints just to say Hi and see how I was doing.
Here's some links for the rally.
This year you had to collect receipts from all the lower 48 states to be a finisher at a minimum. You also had to do a minimum of ~8200 miles. For points you could go collect a picture of each state capital building, go to Alaska and/or go to the four corners (Blaine, WA, Madawaska, ME, Key West, FL and San Ysidro, CA). My plan was to get the first two four corners in case the four corners was a key part of the rally and collect as many state capitals as I went along. As it turns out the four corners wasn't necessary but it would still keep you in the running if you decided to do it. You still had to do the miles though. I managed to come in just under Jim Frens on the miles and would grab the second highest mileage in rally history behind Jim. 13,857 adjusted miles was the total for me but Jim brought in 14,185. Collecting that many miles was good to get but it also talks to the fact that I could have used them more efficiently to help me grab more points.
The first leg was from Seattle to Buffalo, NY covering the northern states. A few went to Alaska but I opted to grab Blaine, WA for the four corners and then start grabbing capitals. Working my way across the upper midwest was fairly easy since I'm familiar with a lot of that area. I rode straight through the first night which put me through Yellowstone in the early morning. It was great to see the wildlife in the early morning but when you're trying to make time there's little time to look. The upper midwest was relatively uneventful and I was happy to be going through my home state to collect the capital in Wisconsin since it was worth quite a few points. Time management was a struggle on Leg 1 and I had more time than I thought but had to reroute because of it. I-29 was closed due to flooding which made me reroute and almost cost me a bunch of points but only ended up costing me time. I thought I was running short on time and then spent hours going back and fourth trying to decide what to do. I did snag a Tennessee receipt on the leg so that I would not have to go that far north on Leg 3 to get it. This saved me a lot of time and allowed me to grab bigger points on Leg 3. All that screwing around got me 12th place at the end of Leg 1 but I was well rested and ready for Leg 2.
I had to get some maintenance out of the way at the checkpoint in Buffalo and Glenn Baldwin was there to help me get things done. Glenn was able to clean things up, help me get the rear wheel mounted and solved the charging problem with the tablet PC I was using in the tankbag for planning on the road. Glenn even went out of his way to check in with me at the Maine capital when he was on his way home. I'm sure glad that Rebecca had asked Glenn to help me out. It was great just to have someone there to chat with and sort things out as I tried to get ready for the next leg.
Leg 2 launched us out to the eastern states. Since I didn't have a lot of experience tackling the north eastern states I put together a plan to get Madawaska, MA after getting the state capitals in New York and Vermont. Taking the trip to Madawaska, ME dropped me into the northeastern states early in the morning on Sunday making traffic nonexistent. However, the trip to Madawaska would not be uneventful.
I'll call it the Madawaska mishap but it's just one of those things that happen on rallies. I arrived in Madawaska after crossing back into the US from Canada. A quick interview at the border and I was off to the post office to snag a picture. Since I wasn't the first person to come through the border I didn't have to explain much. I got to the post office and took my picture with my rally flag. Jennyfer Audet and her riding companion Jacques Titolo were also there. So we said hi/bye quickly and we were both on our separate ways. Half way out of town I realized that I had left my flag on the back of the bike and it was now GONE! Now I had written my phone number on my flag just in case I lost it but if no one ever picked it up that wasn't going to do me much good. I got back to the post office after searching but no flag in sight. I thought Jennyfer or Jacques might have picked it up, but that was a long shot as most riders leave a found flag where it is in case the rider comes back to get it. I shot down to the border crossing bridge and looked for them but they were already gone. I had to explain turning around on the bridge and the US guards were nice enough to believe me and let me back into the US. At this point I wasn't going attempt to get into Canada again with the bridge turn around so I headed back on Hwy 1 through town looking for my flag. About a block from the post office mashed into the center line was my FLAG!!!!!!!!! OH THANK YOU!!!!!! For those that don't know losing your flag is a rather large penalty and a major pain because you need your face in every picture if you lose it which is a challenge if you're the one taking the photo.
I made my way down I-95 when I came across a moose standing near the road. I didn't want to risk trying to run past her because they can move quicker than you think with those long legs. The horn on my bike isn't very loud and in case I encountered a bear, wolf, moose, etc. I packed a disposable air horn. I grabbed it quickly from the fairing pocket after the bike horn did no good. One shot of the $1 air horn and she trotted away from me and off into the woods. That was a buck well spent and I'm glad it was the only wildlife encounter for me on the rally.
The roads were clear the rest of the way down through Maine all the way to the state capital. I rode all night to snatch all of the state capitals on Leg 2 however I forgot to take a picture when I got to the Delaware state capital. This was a major screw up and I still can't believe I did it but I was trying to do too many things at once at the bonus. I did manage to have a receipt from Delaware though so I was still in the game. Another panic attacked avoided. I'm sure glad I stopped for oatmeal at McDonalds in Dover, DE. It would have been a perfect leg if it wasn't for the Delaware slip up but overall the leg was still a great run. Spending 6+ hours to go get West Virginia was well worth it because of the points but the weather was horrendous. Although I thought I would drop in the rankings I was very surprised that I bounced up to 8th by the end of the leg. You need some luck in these rallies and it looked like I was getting some of the luck I needed including finding my flag and getting the receipt for Delaware.
During leg 2 I realized that my front tire wouldn't make it to the finish so I had to call in some favors and got Tony and Marv to ship a front wheel to Jacksonville, FL so I could change it out before leg 3 started. My friend Kreis Wiegel took the time to be at the checkpoint and swap out the wheel. That would give me a front tire that would have enough tread on it to get me through the rally and back to Wisconsin. As is turns out the wheel was bent during shipment but it wasn't bad enough that I had to swap it back. It heated up my front brake fluid which caused me to have almost no front brakes but luckily the Honda has linked braking and between the linked rear brakes and what was left in the front I was fine. Kreis was willing to stay in Jacksonville in case I had to swap the wheel out on my way back up from Key West. It seemed like the issue worked its way out during the first part of the leg so I decided to keep the wheel the way it was and not waste anymore time working on it. Kreis was an ace and was willing to do whatever it took. Derek Dickson took the time to let me ship the wheel to him and was able to ship it back also. Being able to rely on friends during this rally is always key for any kind of tasks that save you time and both Derek and Kreis have my thanks for their help.
After looking at the points for state capitals on Leg 3 I decided that I would stick with getting the four corners and hope that I could collect enough state capitals to stay in the top ten. That would prove to be a tough task. The 3rd leg was the worst for weather. Key West was hit by heavy storms and a few riders got stuck waiting the storms out down there. I was lucky enough be able to push through the storms and get up out of Florida to start collecting the southern capitals. Storms hit again in Alabama, Texas and Arizona. The wind in Texas and the dust storms in Arizona were probably some of the worst I've had to deal with but I managed to get through them without losing a lot of time. Once you're in a storm all you want to do is keep moving to get through it. Having XM Weather Radar on the bike really help me see how severe a storm and how long it would be before I was through it.
Day 9 is always considered to be the turning point of the rally where things start to take its toll. I knew I needed to take my sleep bonus by midnight of day 9. I mismanaged my time again and found myself having to make a choice of going to Denver or staying put for the evening. Half way to Denver I realized that I could get a lot more points if I waited until the next day and went to Carson City and Sacramento. I turned around and made my way quickly back to Santa Fe so I could start my sleep bonus before midnight. I did make sure to snag a receipt for Colorado so I wouldn't need to get it the next day as I made my way across New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. After getting back to Santa Fe I dropped the bike looking for a hotel quickly and busted the right side mirror. The damage was minor and with some well placed duct tape I was back on the road. That wouldn't be the last time I dropped the bike. Having Motorcycle Larry's Tip Over Bars on the bike paid for themselves during the course of the rally.
I planned a route that was almost 2000 miles in the last 28 hours of the rally. I had planned to ride all night anyway and since it was all interstate or desert highways I knew I could maintain a good average. From past 1500 mile/day rides I knew it was possible and I still had the penalty point window as a buffer if I needed it. The points were worth it and without it I would have dropped to 12th place overall. However, I didn't realize my route took my through Zion National Park which is 2 lanes and no passing for at least 30 miles plus a one way tunnel in the middle that alternated traffic. It is a beautiful park and I was glad I got to see it but it was the last thing I wanted at that time when I could see the minutes ticking away. However I was out of there after 45 minutes or so and headed off to Las Vegas and up to Carson City.
Getting to Sacramento should have been easy on Hwy 50 but I chose the interstate which put me up over Donner's Pass in 40 degree weather with snow all around on the hills. That wasn't pleasant since all I had on under my jacket was a wicking base layer shirt. So I was more than glad to get out of there and down into Sacramento. I ran into Art Garvin and we had a brief conversation before I headed out for the long trek down I-5 to San Ysidro. I did stop a couple times to catch some sleep and still made it back to the finish with a couple hours to spare. I managed to drop the bike again after taking it off the center stand at a rest area because the stand was on uneven ground. I recommend taking your time when you wake up from the Iron Butt motel before taking the bike off the center stand. Luckily a family was at the rest area and helped me pick up the bike. The rest was still worth it. Plastic and mirrors can be replaced. Cheap compared to not getting enough sleep. After that I was certainly wide awake again and ready to finish the ride. Luckily the weather was good for the last day and traffic was light. I also finished out the four corners by getting San Ysidro to add 4800 points to my final total before I headed up to the finish. I rolled in with about 2 hours to spare.
Getting back to the finish was a great feeling and The Lovely Cindy was there to greet me at the hotel. We headed back to the room to go through all my receipts before I headed down to get scored. In going through the receipts we noticed that my receipt for Arkansas had Texas on the receipt because I got the receipt in Texarkana which is on the border between the two states. I scrambled to figure out how I could have missed that but I had stopped at a gas station first and didn't like their receipt so I got one from the McDonald's across the street and missed that it was in Texas instead of Arkansas. As I contemplated jumping out our 3rd story hotel room I shuffled through all my other receipts and found the first one I had grabbed at the gas station. It had all the information on it I needed so once again I was saved by saving all my receipts.
After scoring and a great massage from Lisa Stevens I was ready to get some sleep. Team Strange made a great showing making Eddie James proud I'm sure. Peter Behm would win it all, I took fifth and Brian Johnson took ninth. We also missed John Coons and Jim Winterer during the banquet as both of them had to drop out due to accidents during the rally. Bob Joers, Brant Moteelall and John Frick also made excellent showings. Congrats to all the Team Strange riders and thanks to all the IBR Staff and volunteers that made the rally a huge success. I would like to thank Steve Hobart for the putting together our passport books for the rally that we were able to keep. They were great for recording all of our stops and were well put together. Lastly thanks to The Lovely Cindy for her understanding and putting up with watching the little green motorcycle on the computer screen for three weeks.
Here's some pictures of the aftermath. Everything is fixed and the bike is in great shape after new mirror housing, new mirror, a bath, oil change and a new rear tire.